Some opt to devise property to their children in their will; others find it makes sense to exclude one or more of their children or relatives.  

As people attempt to address the unique demands of their situation, they may have questions about disinheriting a child. Sometimes individuals ask about either (1) his or her ability to disinherit a child; or (2) whether her or she must specifically disinherit a child in their will. Although an individual in Pennsylvania can never completely disinherit a spouse, the same is not true for children.

Pennsylvania’s highest court, the PA Supreme Court, has explained that “a parent does not have to leave any of his property to any of his children, irrespective of whether he likes them or dislikes them, or hates them, and he does not have to disclose his reasons for disinheriting them,” as in the case of re Sommerville’s Estate, 177 A.2d 496, 499 (Pa. 1962). However, in the absence of clear and plain language in a will indicating otherwise, it is presumed that a parent does not intend to disinherit their children. In re Newlin’s Estate, 80 A.2d 819, 823 (Pa. 1951). Because of this presumption, it is always better for a will to include plain language which expresses a desire to disinherit a child by name rather than simply leaving them out of the will.

There is no one size fits all estate planning solution.

Well, your child has graduated from college and you’ve cut the strings….so you hope.  The question now becomes:

What impact does this have on my Estate Planning? 

A variety of concerns are raised.  Importantly, in light of the turbulent job market, hopefully you have come to understand a salary cannot be taken for granted.  While you likely appreciate this in your own life, you too must understand this consideration for your recent grad.  Planning for the future means you also need to ensure you have the proper means to support your grad who becomes unemployed and has nowhere to turn.

What about that 529 Plan?  Are you fortunate enough to have your contribution amounts ready for investment elsewhere?  Do you have a balance remaining in that 529 Plan?  There are certain tax considerations you should understand before cashing out.  There are roll-overs and estate tax savings that can be had.

As to your existing Estate Planning documents, your child has been an adult for several years now.  Does your Will or Trust need updated?  Should beneficiaries on your financial policies be updated?

Most importantly, if you have no Will, Living Will or Power of Attorney, now is the time to have those documents drafted.  These documents, while minimal in cost, can save drastic amounts in the future and ensure your loved ones are protected.  You have worked your entire life to create your wealth and provide for your loved ones.  Take the time to ensure you’re life’s wealth is protected.

Over the past decade, not only have you grown older, but your retirement planning needs and your family’s financial needs have drastically changed.  Similarly, over the past decade, the laws of Estate Planning have drastically changed.  No longer is the Federal Estate tax a concern merely for those with extreme wealth.  No longer are same sex couples excluded from certain Estate Planning benefits.  No longer can you expect to receive your share of Social Security benefits.  And, most importantly, no longer can you put off adhering to three basic necessities of Estate Planning.

1) Put together a great team.

A proper team is the very foundation of proper Estate Planning.  Estate Planning involves giving due consideration to investments, tax considerations, and utilizing the right legal documentation to ensure your assets provide for you during your retirement years  and provide for your loved ones beyond your life.

2) Update your Beneficiaries.

Updating your beneficiaries is one of the most forgotten and neglected items.  Yet, it is also one of the simplest to do.  Many people who have not assembled the proper team still list the same primary beneficiary on their insurance policy or retirement plan as they did when they got their job at upon graduation.  Listing the proper beneficiaries enables you to avoid costly estate and inheritance taxes.

 3) Prepare a Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney

If you’re reading this, you have likely realized a Will is necessary to proper Estate Planning.  However, you may not know Wills are not all the same.  The proper will may create a trust, establish a guardian for your minor child and even dictate how your child is cared for.  Additionally, while we are all asked by our doctor if we have a Living Will, how many actually say, “yes”?  We have strong feelings about our body and what type of life sustaining treatment we would want.  Whether those convictions are founded in religion, past experiences, or other beliefs, would your doctor know you wanted treatment refused, or would a funeral director know to embalm your body as opposed to cremation?  These considerations and more are encompassed in Living Wills and Powers of Attorney.

Eric Davis, Esq.

Elliott & Davis, PC

412.434.4911 x 11

425 First Avenue, First Floor Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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